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4 simple ways to engage holiday shoppers online

This post is part of a five part series about what smart retail marketers are doing this holiday season to not only increase sales, but also strengthen customer relationships. Want all the info in one place? Download our eBook: The Retailer’s Ultimate Guide to Holiday Marketing, or get a teaser with our Slideshare deck:

Just like there's always a "must-have" toy of the season, there are fresh digital marketing tools, tips and tricks that marketers can use during the holidays to engage customers and drive sales.
Here are four to consider:

1. Bring action to the inbox

Adding embedded videos to your holiday email program can grab customers’ attention with engaging content. Emails with embedded videos have a 50 percent higher click-through rate compared to emails without embedded videos, according to LiveClicker.

“Video helps bring some of the in-store experience into the inbox and give more color and context to the brand,” says Wacarra Yeomans, Director of Creative Services for Responsys. “It’s an especially great tactic if you have a product that requires inspiration or a more tangible experience in order for someone to buy it.” Yeomans says video in email is especially effective for marketers that sell very tangible items like fashion, perfume or electronics.

2. Make wish lists social

Sixty-seven percent of customers buy gifts found on social media, according to Social Barrel. The engine here is Pinterest, whose public wish lists are a win-win for consumers and retailers alike. Users share what they want with friends and family in one location, and retailers have free brand awareness and product promotion. Sephora, the cosmetics retailer, enables customers to pin beauty products directly from its website and from targeted emails. The company's first foray into direct pins from email generated more than 14,000 repins and a 60 percent jump in Pinterest traffic referrals, reports Working Three, an Australian marketing agency.

"The public wish-list is an increasingly popular and effective way for brands to drive online sales," says Yeomans, adding that Pinterest is a great way for marketers to work around not having wish-list functionality on their sites.

3. Let customers play

Want a sure-fire way to engage customers? Turn messaging into a game. Brian Burke, an analyst at Gartner, predicts that “gamification,” or the practice of applying game mechanics in non-game contexts, will be one day be as critical as Facebook for retaining customers. By next year, 70 percent of the world’s biggest companies will have at least one game-based application, according to Gartner. And, according to Listrak, three to four percent of recipients buy directly from a sweepstakes registration confirmation email.

Retailers can unite the in-store and digital shopping experiences by encouraging customers to scan QR codes or text a keyword to receive a discount or enter to win a gift card. As a bonus, customers can interact via the brand's mobile app or its online site.

IKEA recently drew 200,000 customers who searched its physical catalog for answers to questions they received by SMS in order to win a free shopping spree, according to Econsultancy. Best Buy last year encouraged customers to nominate friends on Facebook to win a holiday gift card (and gave them the opportunity to win one themselves). 

4. Alert customers to how much time – and inventory – is left

Since retailers run sales at different times during the holidays, use countdown clocks to make it easier for customers to track when promotions expire. Display the time remaining on a sale across multiple channels, including the brand's website, app and promotional emails. But time isn't the only factor to be counted – inventory is huge for driving time-sensitive sales. Let customers know how much inventory is left of various sizes and colors. 

Once the sales end, countdown clocks shouldn't disappear. "After the sale has ended, automatically replace the clock in the same email message with a new call to action. For example, 'You missed it – but you can still get free shipping on orders of $100 or more!'" suggests Lalit Chopra, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Movable Ink.

To learn more tips and tricks for your holiday marketing in 2013, check out our eBook or on-demand webcast about how to get bigger results this holiday season.

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